Israel’s plan to boost aid for Arab residents of Jerusalem plan is met with suspicion by some Palestinians, while others admit it will help.
By: United with Israel Staff
A half-billion-dollar Israeli plan called the “Leading Change” program which is being used to develop Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and battle poverty among Palestinians has yet to be embraced by the population it is intended to benefit.
While Israel developed the program to try to improve living conditions in Palestinian areas to help Jerusalem’s Arab residents benefit from Israel’s booming economy, Palestinians appear to be suspicious and unimpressed by the Jewish state’s gesture.
For example, Ziad Hammoury, who heads an organization called the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, told the Associated Press, “All these projects have nothing to do with improving our lives.”
Hammoury’s comments are hard to reconcile with the actual features of the Israeli aid program, which will invest 2 billion shekels (around $560 million) in infrastructure, education and initiatives to help Palestinian women join the work force.
Among the programs that will receive funds through the initiative are nine pilot projects, over five years, to attract additional government and private investment in the future, reported AP.
Notwithstanding the hundreds of millions of dollars of Israelis’ tax dollars offered to help the Palestinians, Hammoury claimed the program is ” about controlling more and more” of Jerusalem.
Israel Continues to Help Palestinians
Israeli officials believe, however, that assisting Jerusalem’s Palestinian areas will also benefit Israel.
“All those who truly believe in a unified Jerusalem and aspire to full sovereignty must act with determination to govern on one hand and to take responsibility for developing infrastructure on the other,” said Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Zeev Elkin, when the projected launched in May.
“[The Arab population is] a population like every other. It deserves to receive public services like everyone,” said Shaul Meridor to AP, who serves as the head of the Finance Ministry budget department. “Economically, it is just very clear to everyone that if we help this population to be in better shape, they will benefit and so will everyone else.”
While Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have been eligible for Israeli citizenship since 1967, most sacrifice this right to avoid recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the city.
Not all Palestinians have been critical of the plan however.
Jerusalem resident Mohammad Owaida, who serves as an adviser to the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry and participates in the Leading Change project, commented, “I don’t care what [Elkin’s] agenda is. I care about improving the lives of 400,000 residents,” telling AP he believes most people agree but are too scared to say so.
Another Palestinian resident of Jerusalem, Ramadan Dabash, stated, “It’s a great project but it came too late and didn’t include local representatives.”
With files from AP.
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